A deep well injection could herald the end of spills from the Piney Point phosphate plant
The digging of a deep well at the troubled Piney Point phosphate plant in Manatee County has been completed. Now, workers are injecting 1 million gallons of polluted water deep underground, every day. WUSF takes a tour of the site, to see what's being done to make sure huge spills don't happen again.
Timeline: Key developments at the Piney Point phosphate plant »
Standing atop the phosphogypsum stacks at Piney Point phosphate plant, you look at the settling pond that has caused a lot of trouble in the past, including releasing more than 200 million gallons into Tampa Bay in 2021.
You can see the bay and the skyline of St. Petersburg just beyond that. The Tropicana Field dome glows white in the distance. And just to the south, the Sunshine Skyway. This is the heart of the problem that's been here for 20 years, and Herb Donica is trying to do something about that — permanently.
Donica is the court-appointed receiver responsible for closing Piney Point. Standing next to me atop the gypsum stack — which contains hundreds of millions of gallons of polluted water — he points to the well, where all that water will be pumped 3,300 feet beneath us.
"This is our largest pond, approximately 270 million gallons. This is the pond we're going to drain first with the deep well injection program," Donica said, "And once we get the water level down, we'll no longer be exposed to those emergencies where the water comes through the sidewall of the stack systems."